The history of badge making doesn’t begin in 1960 when the Fr. Solanus Guild was formed. It begins on August 16, 1934, when a lady named Elenore Zahler married Clarence Geiger. The couple made their home in Cleveland and had three children. Clarence worked for a railroad and was later diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis resulting in the inability to swallow. Doctors predicted his death, but Clarence was cured. Elenore believes it was because of prayer.
In gratitude for her husband’s cure, Elenore made the commitment to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She started making and distributing badges of the Sacred Heart. In order to make the plastic coverings, she needed a machine that could stamp out the holes so the edges could be sewn together. Elenore acquired a manual punch press which she set up in her dining room. Later, she obtained an electrical one weighing about seven tons and moved the workshop to her basement.
At first, the plastic material was difficult to get because it was during World War II. She would scrape the image off x-ray films to use the plastic underneath. Her parents, husband, and foster children helped with the work.
All of this experience and expertise were in place when the Guild needed to increase the production of relic badges. In the early days, Dorothy Fletcher, a secretary for the Guild, organized members to hand punch the oval pictures and plastics. Elenore faithfully supplied the plastic pieces for many years.
Today, the badges are punched on a high-tech die-cutting machine that can produce up to 4,000 pieces per hour. Each badge is then carefully and individually assembled by hand.
Originally, the tiny piece of fabric was taken from Fr. Solanus’ actual habit (2nd class relic). Around 1996-97 when this cloth was no longer available, we began using brown cloth that is blessed and touched to the tomb of Fr. Solanus (3rd class).
The tiny swatch is then glued onto the backside of the photo as shown (actual size is approx. 1.75″ x 2.25″).
At first, the back and front pieces were printed separately and each oval cut out by hand. Today they are printed double-sided on sheets and die-cut, then carefully separated one at a time.
This piece is then encased between two “plastics” and the edges are crocheted together. Each badge is unique. It can be carried in a wallet or pocket. Some have a loop used for pinning onto a hospital gown or threading a cord. It is a symbol of Fr. Solanus’ faith as evidenced by his last words printed on the back: “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.”
The relic badge is a reminder of Fr. Solanus. It is a tangible connection to the tomb where we pray for his intercession. It is also a personal symbol of the candidate for sainthood who prays for us and intercedes with God for us when we ask. A common misconception is that the 3rd class relic badges “aren’t as good as” the original 2nd class relic, but one must remember that the cloth is not what brings about healing. It is our faith in God, the power of prayer, and our courage to act. At all times, it is good to remember that “we may not get what we want, but God always provides what we need.”
Some people like to hold their badges in times of suffering, trial, or trouble. Holding it while enduring a medical procedure or undergoing a difficult situation helps to comfort us. The badge represents hope while rallying with our own faith.
Long and dedicated hours from hundreds of men and women have gone into making relic badges through the years, but those who are part of the process would agree that it is an honor, a form of prayer, and a good feeling to know that others may be helped in some way.
We are grateful to all who have contributed their time and energy to the process of badge making which is in demand today more than ever. To date, over two million badges have been hand-made and given to faithful people throughout the world.
Relic badges are not for sale. “It is absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics” according to Canon Law (Canon 1190: “Sacras reliquias vendere nefas est.”). We freely give them to those who have devotion to Fr. Solanus.
eBay and other Internet sites sometimes offer relic badges for sale. We cannot stop this unauthorized selling, so we uphold these sellers in prayer, that they might reconsider the disrespectful and unscrupulous act of selling blessed items for profit. Thank you.